Salado style may represent efforts to harmonize three different Native American southwestern cultures, researcher claims
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Native American women may have built a regional peace movement in the Southwest during a contentious time, when there was major political and cultural conflict in the region.
The ideals of that movement were expressed by their pottery, which communicated the same, specific set of religious messages across cultural lines. The Salado pottery, as it’s now known, was buried with both the elite and non-elite and painted with complex, geometric motifs and animals, such as horned serpents. Instead of celebrating local elites, the symbols emphasized fertility and cooperation, according to University of Missouri researcher Todd VanPool.
“In my view, the fact that the new religion is reflected solely in pottery, a craft not usually practiced by men, suggests that it was a movement that helped bring women together and decreased competition among females,” said VanPool, who is an assistant professor of anthropology in the MU College of Arts and Science. “Women across the region may have been ethnically diverse, but their participation in the same religious system would have helped decrease conflict and provided a means of connecting different ethnic groups.”
First discovered in 1930′s Arizona, Salado pottery created a debate among archaeologists because it spanned three cultures of the ancient southwest that were often at odds: The ancestral Puebloan in northern Arizona and New Mexico, the Mogollon of southern New Mexico and the Hohokam of central and southern Arizona, all with different religious traditions.
According to VanPool, the Salado tradition is a grassroots movement against violence. Based on his research, VanPool thinks the women who created the pottery sought to find a way to integrate newly immigrating refugees and prevent the spread of warfare that decimated communities to the north.
Salado pottery dates from the 13th to 15th centuries in which there was major political and cultural conflict in the American Southwest. Brutal executions and possible cannibalism forced thousands of people to abandon their native regions and move to areas of Arizona and New Mexico. Another source of conflict appeared after the female refugees and their children arrived in their new homelands.
Most of the Salado pottery has been found in southeastern Arizona, where it’s believed the three cultures merged into one.
“Conflict was defused through the direct action of women who sought to decrease the tensions that threatened to destroy their communities,” VanPool said. “The rise of the Salado tradition allowed threatened communities to stabilize over much of modern-day Arizona and new Mexico, altering the course of Southwestern prehistory. Given that the Salado system lasted from 1275 to around 1450, it was most certainly successful.”